What is the difference Between a Modem, Router and a Switch?

difference between Router and modems

Welcome back friends, literally its been a whole year for me to come back with something simple and interesting to show. Actually I was not sure about what to conclude but few days ago one of my student asked me a simple question and it reminds me of an incidence – a few year back I had asked myself this very same question and I was new to this field then. But now I think I can answer a bit about the quest; The True difference between a modem,a router and a switch.

Before You start reading, let me tell you what the whole topic is about and how it can help to solving any practice problem. If you find something useful or interesting or something that I missed to Include then please inform me about it.

The whole content of this page is concerned with the basics about three of most important Networking Devices. Actually directly or Indirectly we all interact with these on daily , day-to-day basis from morning to evening go. It’s all about Router, Modems and Network switches. Here I have tried to answer all those question that I myself actually asked and searched many a times.

A modem is a device that coordinates the Internet connection with the Network Provider while a router is a device that is used to connect two networks together, generally it connects your network to your modem and together provide Internet to all your Devices.

So let us start with basics Those who are not very technical about these terms the answer for all of them is simply these are types of network devices that help us to connect our computer, laptops , mobiles or any other devices that require Internet to the Internet Itself. OK i think its pretty simple to understand.

Now with a broader perspective Answer for every technical person Actually if you are a technical person then, you definitely know better than me, and Its my site – I can write whatever I want –just joking… So my version of the answer is – if a device connects me directly to the Internet then It should be termed as a Modem and if it helps to connect all my gadgets so that I can exchange information with  these connected device without considering the Internet as it is then It is a Router. Now the title of this post includes a different term that is quiet uncommon these days – yes I m talking about switches. If you are scratching your head and asking what the hell I m talking about then you are not the only one, Actually It was my feelings also when I had studied all these as comparison. Coming to the point – without getting in deep discussion let me sum up here Switches are nothing but an old term for Router or other network routing devices – Yes believe it – its 100% true.

Now with this short discussion, I m sure those who are still reading are really in need of help and those who left are better than me for sure. If you are reading then you must have many question to ask, so did I. The obvious question that I asked to myself was “OK Is it good or worthy to read this topic”….. sorry it’s not the actual one. The actual question was –about What, How, When, Why, Is it and really so much like that for simply a general query for my mind. I actually quoted my versions of the question and definitely the answer that I found useful to me. So please read an tell me where to add or correct something if any needed.

What does a Router do or what does a modem used for ?

Starting with the specific question- Functioning of a modem and router and why we should be concerned about it. This is something very specific and believe it- I didn’t know the actual difference when my dad gifts me my very first laptop- My personal laptop that I still own.

So if you have read the intro section of this page carefully then I can say that all we know is a router and a modem are two different functioning devices. Let me make it clear that my words not literally mean that we can only have two separate Modem and Router as these are different. Actually there are lots of devices currently available on many e-commerce sites – like the one I bought last year, that can provide the support for both in one single device.

Again let us start with the simple and easiest answer– Few years back I asked this question to one of my family friends, that time he was known for his technical expertise at least in our family circle. Believe it or not I actually asked it as a genuine question and what I get in return – I still Remember his answer. It was ” What you don’t know this……Hahh…. It’s a device to use with Internet…you dum***….” . OK i CAN’T Include the whole part but you may have understand the content of that. so again you may say why do I say these useless conversation of mine- It only because we all think and try to pretend that we know enough of what we are saying but the truth is at most we know nothing much about the basic requirements of our daily life.

hahhaah Its was my expression, then I say to my own dum mind that have you got what you are searching for and the answer is obvious “No”. Again I search the Internet and tried to sort what seems to be useful to me. Here’s what I actually found.

Modem is a device that connects a computer with Internet and technically there must be an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that provide service for Internet. Actually you have to pay separately for using the Internet. What it actually do is a matter of technical discussion but in general term I can say that to use Internet I need a modem good enough to provide high-speed connectivity.

Now What about a Router, what does it do ? – The name Router makes it clear that it is something that deals with routing or channeling some sort of message or information. Technically it is  a network device that connects a modem with various other user devices like computer or even wireless printers.

The significant difference between a Modem and a router considering their basic functionality is- Modem is used for having Internet access whereas a Router provides support for accessing Internet and sharing of data over various connected devices.

This is all you need to know about the basic working and uses of Modem and Router.

difference between Router and modems

what does a Modem or a Router look like ?

Now this is really a weird question- you can think of me as an idiot but its true that I asked this question. It is obvious that my intention was not to know the looks but how to identify one if I see something like that. And what I found is more weird than my question.

If you ask this question to google then it’s very common that you will get exactly what I had and believe it at the end everything looks very same and repetitive.  The Internet tells about device having antenna is generally a router and a modem is more likely a boxed device.

But Is it actually true, I think not always true. Most modern Routers and modems looks very same and are being made more compact these days. So how to make the difference? Ok I found something Interesting for this, may be I m right may be not for few case but Still I trust this. My opinion is to look through the casing precisely, more likely you will see number of Ethernet  or network LAN ports in a modem and number of USB, more of them in a good Router. So its obvious to distinguish these devices for their layout according to their functioning.

Is Modem and Router is one Device ?

It’s very similar to my previous question. Although if you have read previous discussion carefully then it should be very easy to answer this question. If you are still in confusion then let me remind you the basics for connectivity . As I already state that if you need Internet access then you need a modem , this is obvious and if you want to share this internet over various other devices and also to share any kind of information freely without concerning the availability of Internet – then you must have a good quality Router connected with a powerful Modem.

If you ask me this very question then my answer will be– A modem and A Router are two different functioning device,both having separate working and need not be considered as one device. But There are many such devices available right now that can offer the functionality of both modem and Router together as one device.

So Technically These are different devices but practically you can find a perfect device for yourself without worrying about whether it is a modem or a router, you can utilize it as a combo or a two in one device. And mind it – if you are searching for a home use or portable device then you can have one from our recommended list.

Are all routers switches ?

OK lets give a break to our discussion for a while and check out a new short topic. Actually I don’ like to speak too much about any single topic and I think  studying “Switches in comparison to Routers” will definitely manage the consistency of what I wanna tell.

switches:- If you don’t know then only think of it as a term that signifies a Router for general purpose. Technically It is a different device that works similarly as a Router to connect one computer to other computer or any network device.

If it so then Why It is termed similar to Router? The answer is obvious, It’s only because switches are technical component within a general router, having different functionality but in one device. So no need to worry if you are new to these terms and even if you are far away from technicalities just like me.

Technically a Switch or network switch or hub is a network device that connects two or more computers that supports transfer of data, sharing of Data is one of an obvious requirements of having a Network Switch. If you want any specific technical information then please let me know about it, write your query in specifically in comment.

Do you Really Need a Router…

Coming back to our discussion. If you are still reading then you must have understand the basic difference between the design, layout and functioning of a Router and Modem. So Now a very specific question rises- Do you really need a router to use Internet. It may depend on your requirements and  definitely on your choice.

But for me Its a straight, big NO… It’s true you don’t need a router for accessing Internet. You may differ from my answer but believe me It’s perfectly right. A Router is not meant for accessing Internet, It just meant for connectivity for data transfer. All you need is a modem or just a LAN connection as most of the personal computer have inbuilt modem to process network connectivity.

Now If so then, why there is so wide range of such devices available even if we don’t actually need those? The answer is very simple and obvious, Our laptop is just a small part of our daily technology requirement. Actually most of the time we use our handheld smartphones, tabs and in my case I usually consider my phone more than anything. And for this reason it is true that we need a good quality router along with a high-speed modem to connect all our network or actually internet seeker Devices. That is why I bought a new router last year.

Do You have to have a modem and a router ?

I think this particular question depends on our specific requirement and of course, it also depends on our choice. Practically before buying a Modem or Router, you should think of your requirements. You should ask few very simple question to yourself like, where to use this device, who will use, how to use, which specific devices you have that you want to connect and it’s costing for sure. It must be specific that many router and modems are developed on network specific and device and connectivity specific order. So you should consider the technical specification of the devices you have, like its connectivity and other support.

If you are using Internet for while and definitely you do as you are reading my blog right now and its a webpage so you must be aware of ISP. An ISP stands for Internet Service Provider who actually provide Internet service to our doorsteps. Actually it is the matter for deciding a good ISP that is affordable and easily accessible every time we need Internet connection. Practically When you take Internet connection, most of available ISP provide you with their network specific Modem and probably router type in single device. But if they don’t then only you should consider buying a good quality high-speed modem and router. It is completely your choice whether to have two separate device or you just want a single one to work as both a Modem and a Router.

If you need help then let me know and I will try to sort out a simple solution for your problem.

Do you need a router if you have a Modem ?

Technically speaking, Yes at least in my case I need a router even if I already had a working modem. So i bought a Router as I told earlier and it’s not only for my general requirement for everyone in my family. Actually every device at my home is currently connected with this router not only for Internet access but actually for data and information sharing purpose. My router is one with wireless support and I generally use it to access internet and sometimes to connect my wireless printer for any printing purpose.

It is up to you what you choose, but If you ask me for suggestion then I recommend you to have a good modem with a high-speed router and if possible then try to have a combo.

So If you have read my article thoroughly then I believe that you know enough to distinguish between a Router and a Modem. Now I can say that you definitely know what you want and how to find that. If you need my Help then always feel free to contact me.


OK concluding today’s discussion, So what do we see and What do we learn?  Being Specific we learn about the difference about basic definition, functioning and layout of modern modem and routers. All we learn is that both Modem and Router are different devices needed not only for Internet access but also for information in the form of data sharing. Another Point we discuss was Switch, so without going in details lets take it as a term related to router. And finally we discuss the requirements for modem and router, whether it required or not or do we need them both, also can we have a single device with the functionality of a modem-router together. All these topics are important considering the network connectivity, so hope my ideas may have helped you in understanding this in a generic form. If you still need help or having any question regarding a Modem or Router or even Network Switches or hubs then please write in comment.

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